Acts 15:10,11 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15 tells of a crisis in the church… the number of believers in Christ was growing daily, & not just among Jews anymore. Now, even the Gentiles were coming to Christ! So what’s the crisis?
Certain groups among the Jewish believers couldn’t imagine God calling and saving people that weren’t circumcised. After all, circumcision was VERY significant for the Jew, as it marked the establishment of their covenant identity with God. Circumcision marked them in most intimate way as a separate, distinct, people who belonged to the LORD.
I thank God for Paul, Barnabas and the Jerusalem council; when confronted with the pressing question, “What are we going to do about this?” they reminded their Christian brothers that the gospel being preached is one of grace and justification through faith. I imagine their debate with those that were demanding circumcision, wondering out loud what other hoops to jump through could have arisen if Paul and the others had given in. Dietary restrictions? Hair and beards? Rejection of one’s culture of origin to embrace the Jewish culture?
Here we are 2000+ later, mostly Gentiles reading this, wondering what the big deal was… in hindsight its easy to point out the Old Testament scriptures where God calls for the “inner circumcision,” a circumcision of the heart. It’s silly, because we know that we’d never put stumbling blocks in front of new believers, and for sure would never add to the gospel… Would we?
Hmmm. I remember as a kid seeing people different than my family and me coming to church. I know now that they were ‘hippies” – identified by their bare feet, old Levis, t-shirts, and mostly unkempt hair and beards. They really stood out…
I remember it was a big deal when they came to Christ, gave their testimonies of deliverance and expressed earnest desire for freedom from drugs, immorality, and their desire to be clean, whole, and experience real love. I remember the discussions that took place where church leaders wrestled with the influx of new people, and wondered how we could help disciple them… One suggestion rings in my ears:
“What they really need is some different clothes and a haircut. They need to know that they’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
We do it too. Makes me wonder… are we adding to the “Main Thing” of the gospel? Are there “Louie-isms” that are being elevated to “gotta do’s”?
LORD, remind us that we are saved by Your grace, just as our brothers and sisters around the world are.